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Poems

For All The Guys I Used To Love
Dedicated to Them, With No Apologies

Please feel free to quote any or all of my poems, in whole or in part, as long as you give me credit.

Charlene Keel

MY KIND

You beheld in me
What is peculiar to me only
And to my kind:
I am a woman.
Impatient, afraid to share the laughter in my eyes,
You left me to battle in the dark
My own special kind of madness.
(for ES)

 

Charlene Keel

HELLO?

I am real, you know.
Pinch me and a welt of flesh will turn pink
Under your fingers,
Or blue, if you hurt hard enough.
If I walk on sand, I’ll leave footprints.
The strands of my hair on your brush
Are there. I can see them.
And the sentences I leave hanging in the air
Will someday have to be finished.
And believe me, friend –
Hello –
Are you there?
(for E.S.)

 

Charlene Keel

R.I.P.

I waltz with shadows of my former self.
So much lately, I glance up
And catch my old self watching me
In surprise and wondering what I’m doing here,
So far removed from my natural center of gravity –
Which is my blessed curse of solitude.
The me that was stares blankly at you,
Knowing that you don’t see me
And knowing that,
For all the Pomp and Circumstance,
You never, ever looked.
(for AG1 and ES)

 

Charlene Keel

THE OTHER WOMAN

The lyric, mysterious title I once held
Is incomprehensible to me now
As I sit among the dirty laundry and the dustpan
Like some latter-day Cinderella, waiting for the ball to begin.
Worlds of Time I had then
To listen and soothe a man’s complaints,
To drape my body and face in finery
And perfume all the light bulbs…
To plump a pillow and an ego
With carefully manicured fingers and words.
And I cheerfully traded that life for this:
Paper diapers and formula and oatmeal,
Hair beyond repair, having to glow in pride
Of clean floors and sink,
With little time to read or think
Of late, though, everything is done by dark
And the magazine-recipe pot roast grows hard,
Its carrots turning brown at 3 AM.
And I drink coffee and sort your socks
And wait…wondering about another
Other woman.
(for AG1)

 

Charlene Keel

SPRING SHOPPING (or, PRACTICAL MAGIC)

A new love
(After so many old ones),
Like a new spring coat,
Must be tried on for size
And practicality.
Style is seldom relevant.
(for ES)

 

Charlene Keel

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

So you want to throw me back.
Well, it’s a mighty big ocean out there,
Sailor,
With ports of call
And sailors aplenty
Awaiting,
Unsuspecting,
For a mermaid turned piranha
To grow legs and climb up out of the water,
Ready to devour the entire Pacific coastline
And outlying islands.
(for DI and AG2)

 

Charlene Keel

TURNING 30

The vision of the girl is gone
And in her place there stands
An image of a woman,
Though somewhat contraband,
Stolen from empty summer nights
And a thousand lovers’ lies,
Smuggled safe towards middle years
With landmarks near her eyes.
(for ES)

 

Charlene Keel

CRUCIFIX

Against the rocks would I, unheeding, dash
My hopes and life and soul with scorpion slash
Of blade upon my flesh,
And let my blood with tears and gall enmesh
To satisfy my longing.
That you would come in the midst of my despair
And defile my heart with promises to care –
Yet caring not, made mockery of love’s dole!
With gentle spikes and tender thorns, you crucified my soul.
My heart was yours and you alone could lift it up,
Make it find pleasure in life’s bitter cup
That I vainly prayed would pass away from sight
And let my yearning soul take its short flight
To a place that’s void of longing.
Ah, truly said: “Oh barren gain and bitter loss,”
For still I see, through empty eyes, your name upon my Cross.
But I would not have your wanton love, though it were offered whole,
When I remember tender thorns that crucified my soul.
(for JR)

 

Charlene Keel

SUMMER’S BALM

She started up to traveler’s clatter,
For she thought her lover came;
But it only was the restless wind
Before a summer rain.
Her bare feet touched the cobbles
And the honeyed water dripped
From the rooftops as the rain bent down
And kissed her parted lips.
Like liquid satin, it fell ‘round
And raised mist from the dust,
And washed away the promises –
The whole of a lover’s trust.
The storm played havoc with the trees,
And memories’ ghosts fell down
In Gileadic puddles,
For comfort, to the ground.
(for JR)

 

Charlene Keel

FUROR POETICUS

The grass is withered, yea; and full of weeping
For the soul, the lost soul
That trembles on the precipice of Time,
Breathless ‘ere it speak –
Its mind is swollen with the knowledge
Never seen by former man
Yet ever seen by former man
Of Planet Earth’s existence
Of the Spinner’s awful plan
For man….
Its eyes are swollen, red with weeping
That the grass knows,
The eternal grass that comes and goes and comes
And sees the heart of Mankind
Ever broken o’er his woes….
“His joys are like the daisies sprinkled o’er Earth’s emerald breast,
So beautiful but scarce and only for a Season;
And the grass is there, though dead and dried,
Always there….
The Spring of life’s dwelling blossoms full but leaves
Its petals in the dust,
Trampled, trod and broken
After Summer’s thunder-lust of showers;
And the pale, Autumn flowers are the afterbirth of Love.
Then cold, dead Winter steals across the brow of man
And leaves him conquered, bleeding, fallen in the pure and bitter snow.
The Beast of Onward-Upward comes to lick his wounds…
They heal. He stretches in the sun
And wakes from Death’s watch and staggers up
To battle, still senseless in his weakness.
And the Lightning flares around him
And come the beating Rains
And then the endless hours of baking in the sun.
Then comes the spray-fine Glacier to cool his fevered cheeks
And finally chills him to the bone and
Leaves him rotten, stinking, weak.
Woman comes to bind his wounds again and
He lives to look upon her and sees at first her gentle kindness
And her mother-way with man.
Then as strength o’ertakes him, he surveys
Her graceful beauty, faërie form and shining eye –
And they meet as Man and Woman.
But Beauty fades like grass a-dying, dried, withered, old –
Ephemeral flame of passion.
The morrow proves him well and strong.
Once again, he picks his way along the
Mountain-tops of Sorrow,
Searching for he knows not what,
His form seen in the distance, a smaller-growing spot.
And she is left alone to struggle with the rearing of his son –
Bastard-child of Mankind’s pleasure,
The whelp of disappointment,
An embryo of error,
His journey never done.”
But before the Soul can utter all it knows of Living Death,
It must go yonder-forth with its hapless dwelling house –
The Man who travels onward, never-ending,
Into the twilight sun.
(for JC and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)

 

Charlene Keel

I LIKE BIG ROOMS

I like big rooms
Where
I can sit alone and listen for the rain.
And every cushion knows my name.
And each tiny scarf
On each little chair,
I put there.
I don’t like little rooms
That shut out your soul.
I like big rooms where my heart can wander
To each corner.
I like Oriental eyes
And Irish brogues and children
Who ask, “Why?”
I like the still, the quiet of death,
The smell of earth
Just turned over.
I like big rooms that let in Sunshine
And the cool clover beneath big windows.
I like the scent of chalk and the rifling of pages
And the feel of a wooden pencil
In my hand.
I like wet sand – and mud to walk barefoot in
And salty waves and fields of corn
And big, boisterous dogs and little, grimy hands,
And
Children who ask, “Why?”
(for JC)

 

Charlene Keel

CIRCA 1901

The great main hall echoes with
Ellen’s resounding, lusty hymn
In the twilight hours
As I sit at my piecework.
The criss-cross light falls slanty
Over the carpet before me,
Burgundy-tinted, musty and old.
The growing shadows of evening flit from corner
To corner of the huge, infirm house
And flirt with the cobwebs.
I must speak to Ellen about the cobwebs.
I start to hum as I sew
But give it up because, in the first place,
It cannot compete with Ellen
And anyhow, the sound of my own voice
Is strange to me, sometimes.
So I’m caught up in thoughts of politics
And repairs which (although a man’s affair)
I must reckon with.
Amos, Ellen’s husband, comes in to tell me
About a hole in the east fence where the
Neighborhood boys are coming through
To steal the ripened plums.
He leaves and my parlor is empty once more,
Save for myself and the shadows
That flit and twist, and my comfortable fire.
The picture of your bonny head bending over,
And the sound of your voice as you whispered
The last love words are ever in my garden,
In my house; and in my mind it’s as though years
Had not passed, and I’d not given way to lines
And gray hair and an old maid’s dreams.
Ah! The doorbell! Just at a most important stitch
And fond memory.
I lift my bulk and make my way to the heavy, huge door.
I open it and you stand there, unchanged by time,
Young and bright and warm as ever,
Wearing that same new suit,
Smiling that same old smile.
“You’ve come,” I say, trying to keep my voice steady.
“And how is she?”
“She is dead,” you say and take my hand.
My heart will burst!
The empty years, the lonely hours, are ended!
You’ve come at last!
My heart starts to race, running across the lawn
And out through that break in the east fence!
Then Ellen’s voice deters me.
“Did I hear you talking to yourself, ma’am?”
And not allowing time for my reply,
“Did you mean the chops for dinner, or the ham?”
“The ham, please,” I say and as she leaves,
I sigh and stoop to retrieve my sewing
Which has fallen to the floor.
(for JC)

 

Charlene Keel

AT DINNER

The ice in my water glass clangs softly
Like your laughter, that taught me
My own worth.
The linen in my lap is crisp and snowy
Like your voice. The fragile china
Sings a lonely dearth.
I strive to make responses to my partner –
They are proper, ever old yet
Sounding (I hope) new.
“I surely hope it doesn’t rain on Tuesday.”
And all the while,
The wine is full of you.
(for LR)

 

Charlene Keel

BEDTIME

One calm, clear night, long ago
In the glorious month of May,
A maiden bid the world goodbye
And locked her heart away.A photograph, a faded note,
A key on a golden chain
Put away in a cedar box
With a heart that shrinks in pain.
Through fleeting years the heart lies there,
Growing bitter and old too soon,
And it dies a little with the setting sun
And rising of each new moon.
Each night in her room, she dons her gown
And braids her graying locks;
And with a heavy sigh and a tiny key,
She opens the cedar box.
(for JR)

 

Charlene Keel

SNAKE PIT

Walk softly among them.
Do not let go a word
That could awake too fully their collective slumber.
Beware “Don’t Tread On Me” signs, “I will bite.”
For they will.
Walk softly among them.
Give ear to their virginal moans
With each shaft of honest thought
That penetrates the tombs
They call their minds.
Walk softly among them.
Do not intrude your truth
Into the lovely lies
They call their dreams…
For they believe.
(for SD)

 

Charlene Keel

WHEN IT RAINS

When it rains, I think about his eyes…
You aren’t especially aware of them when he’s looking at you.
It’s when he turns them away that
You remember, with a sharp pain,
How, with his own slow glance,
He saw the secret places of your heart.
What it must be
To be loved by him.
He looks at me with a haunting longing
I’m sure she has never seen.
When it rains, I always think about
His eyes.
(for J.C.)

 

Charlene Keel

THE THOUSAND THINGS

Talk to me.
Tell me the thousand things
You’d not have others know.
I will not condemn but listen
And I will show
You the thousand things
That only you could know.
(for J.C.)

 

Charlene Keel

ENDLESS NIGHT

Can you hear me sighing softly in the endless night,
As memories surround me in the dark?
Can you feel me reaching for you across our empty bed,
Drawing back my hand as if burned,
Still surprised at not finding you there.
I always thought an hour was an hour…sixty minutes…no more.
But time, especially in the dark, is full of treachery.
And the times we’ve laughed, loved, touched, tickled, wept together
March like taunting spirits through our room
As the hands on our clock refuse to move
Toward the hollow but resolute morning;
And I’m wrapped in the smell, the taste of you, my need of you.
It’s funny…
When I slept warm against your side,
The night was never long enough.
And now it never ends….
(for DI)

 

Charlene Keel

MANNA

Sleeping surrounded by you after love,
I share the purest thought of any seraphim,
Night voices commune in whispers
Sighing, “No more. I’m sated,”
As though there ever could be enough
Of your sweet flesh in the evening;
And in the morning, bread and honey to the full.
Dreaming stirs you and rising, your warmth engages mine
While the heavy dawn is lifting,
And I waken to the feather-fall of
Manna raining down.
(for ES, recycled for DI)

 

Charlene Keel

RECOVERY

More silence is than is required,
And one can taste the isolation in a room.
The spirit aches from feeling every daily thing –
The earth, for example, grinding upon its axis.
And exactly how long it took to build Rome
Is really none of my concern.
(for LR)

 

Charlene Keel

PETER OF THE ANGELS

Oh, Peter of the Angels
With your eyes smoldering hazel smoke
In the glow of sunset on the Hills,
There you go again
Chasing across the skies.
You blinked – hazel –
And missed one small step for mankind.
(for PS)

 

Charlene Keel

WINTER COMES

The first sign of winter,
On a New York subway
Is the sudden aroma, piquant and nostalgic,
Of old coats and mothballs
Filling the car.
(for my beloved New York City)

 

Charlene Keel

IN A DISHTUB

In a dishtub my castles are built
Around the pots and plates and pans.
I pour in the soap and water,
And I’m in a different land.
An Eskimo with white igloo,
And a-whaling I will go
In my kayak (a silver spoon)
Through the soapy land of ice and snow.
A fairy queen with elves so neat (org. fine)
To wait for my command,
I drink dew from flower-cups
While stars twinkle on beach-white sand.
Titanic! A ship sailing the sea,
A hulk of steel (my hand, of course)
A bubble-captain at the wheel,
Nothing can take me off the course.
Now a snow maiden dressed in white,
Riding my tureen sleigh.
Through milk-white hills and valleys
It carries me away.
My mother’s voice brings me back
From excursions through the foam,
“Hurry with them dishes, girl –
Your pa’s come home.”
(at age 15, for myself)

 

Charlene Keel

EXUBERANCE

Running barefoot through the grass,
Reeling in the wind,
Laughing at the folks who pass,
Brain all in a spin,
Leaping grandly in the air,
Dancing on a stump,
Over the big ditch dug by rain,
With a mighty jump,
Swinging in the children’s swing,
Climbing up a tree,
Then falling down on the ground
Yowling joyously.
(for JC, and for myself)

 

Charlene Keel

THE NEW MORALITY (or, IUD)

I have paid dearly for it –
And I’m one of its more regular customers.
My every misconceived child expelled
In deference to it
Has chimed the cost in Protestant dreams of valid flesh
Too precious and too little to be seen.
(for E.S.)

Charlene Keel



Please feel free to quote any or all of my poems, in whole or in part, as long as you give me credit.